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December 28, 2009

After a roundabout journey, Oppong finds a home at EKU

RICHMOND — When Toronto native Papa Oppong was growing up, he dabbled in several sports.

With both of his parents being natives of western Africa, he played soccer, naturally. He struggled with Canada’s main sport, ice hockey, because of his inability to skate.

Eventually, with exposure to the NBA, he found his way to basketball.

“Soccer is really popular in Africa, so my dad got me into soccer,” Oppong said. “Basketball is more of my love. I was sitting down and watching Michael Jordan and Kobe and all of those guys when I was younger and I had more of a passion for it.”

It’s been the same kind of roundabout journey that brought Oppong to Eastern Kentucky University. The 6-foot-4 guard started at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, but transferred after just a year to Panola Junior College in Carthage, Texas. Then, he was recruited to EKU, where he found his basketball family.

“From the first day, I was accepted, as soon as I stepped on campus,” he said. “I was here in the summertime and there were a few guys here who I knew and as soon as we came in August, I felt like I was part of the family.”

Last season was rough for Oppong. Just as he hit his stride, he separated his shoulder in mid-December at Cincinnati, after which he was sidelined for five games. Despite it being one of the highlights of the season — the Colonels forced overtime on the Big East school, which is now one of the top teams in the country, before losing by a slim 85-77 margin — Oppong wishes he could forget that game.

“Cincinnati was one of our best games, but for me, I really don’t like that game,” he said. “It was when I actually dislocated my shoulder. And it hurt — it really hurt. The process of coming back was so hard because it took so long. When I got back, it took me a minute to get back into the flow and get adjusted.”

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